tv Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson Army Secretary Mark Esper on... CSPAN May 15, 2019 4:19am-5:09am EDT
struggle with voting rights. gerrymandering seems outdated but it still exists and it is still a problem. those are things we wanted to focus on. >> to watch the winning entries from this year's contest, go to studentcam.org. >> therefore secretary heather wilson and army secretary mark esper spoke about modernizing the military. they spoke recently in washington. heather wilson will resign her office at the end of the month to become president of the university of texas at el paso. this is just under one hour.
>> we are delighted to have the ambassadors and the secretaries of the army and air force here with us. a word of introduction about this series -- this is part of our diplomatic insight series, part of our center for diplomatic engagement where we -- [no a bridge between audio] -- [indiscernible] we are delighted to have the --port of lockheed martin [no audio]
-- i would like to invite our speakers to the stage to join us. what i will do this morning, since their biographies are in your material is just to -- most of youra recognize her from her many appearances on television but barbara starr has probably more experienced than anyone else in the press corps with defense issues. >> does that mean i am old? >> no, it means you started when you are eight years old. know, has been with cnn, where she leads the pentagon effort coverage, prior to her service with cnn, she has has worked for abc news and been a part of a lot of other
media efforts, including running the bureau in washington for james defense weekly. thank you for being here. secretaries, thank you for taking time out of your day to cross the river and join us at meridian. >> thank you for coming out on a rainy day. admit, press corps, we we are happy to be out of the pentagon for a couple hours. thank you for being here. >> so are we. >> anything to get out of there for a little. i will not go through a lot of biographical material. you know both the secretaries. they are political appointees, confirmed by the u.s. senate in their jobs as the civilian leaders of their respective forces. secretary wilson overseeing organizing and equipping for
685,000 forces, military and civilian. 1.4 million in, the department of the united states army, overseeing budgets that are growing and yet being trimmed in select areas, so perhaps we will get to that. i thought it might be useful for everybody if restarted -- we all know, there is a bunch of hotspots popping up in the news day by day. korea,venezuela, north the border. jobs, the context of the your responsibilities for training, equipping, making sure u.s. forces already, making sure u.s. forces are compatible with allies in operations -- to ask
you to talk about, in this current context and i would like to start with the persian gulf, the flareup of tensions in iran, and ask you to talk about based on readiness you have right now, how convinced you are that u.s. troops and the coalition and allies are ready to counter any provocation? because we know that the potential adversarial threat is against u.s. bases and troops, talk to us about -- [laughter] >> sorry. talk to us about this. talk to us about what you are looking at, what your focus is on this? >> a few opening remarks. thank you.
didn't be remiss if i miss this opportunity, -- [indiscernible] great colleague and friend and all we have done together. remarkable. in many ways, we have worked so closely. i will miss her. [indiscernible] >> for those who may not be aware, secretary was, let me have you briefly tell everyone what is in the works for you. >> i am leaving the service at the end of may and i will be the next president at the university of texas at el paso. our responsibility as we provide training and equipping to answer the nations call whenever and wherever. with the army, we have been on incredible trajectory after years of shrinking budgets
caused by the budget control act. very confident we can be responsive to central command and can deal with any threats that come up in that region. >> can you give us insight for u.s. troops for coalition forces ? do you anticipate putting more into the region? do you have enough? what makes you come to the conclusion that you can deal with an adversarial threat? >> central commanders determine what the requirements are in the region. [indiscernible] forces ready, deployable to do that at any moment, as was reported. [indiscernible] we are training constantly. i have been to iraq and afghanistan multiple times to
visit troops, often working together, shoulder to shoulder in coalition headquarters, including countries of the region and outside the region. many nato partners. i'm confident we would work together well and are prepared to deal with anything. what we prefer is that we work things out diplomatically. our job is in our diplomats hands. >> secretary wilson. we have seen b-52s deploy. f-15s and f-35's are there. >> our responsibility is to organize, train and equip forces so when a combat commander says they need forces to support diplomatic usher efforts, we have those and we present those as ready and we take care of their families. decisionsake the about where forces go. we make sure we are ready.
in the case of the air force, our job very often is to be the power projection at any moment. it was a little over 50 hours from the call to send forces forward and when b-52s were on the ramp in the middle east. anytime, anywhere, ready to go. correct, please correct me if i'm wrong, b-1's are currently grounded. you are down to the b-52s? things that has been tremendously helpful over the last several years, we had the same thing with the air -- navy, oureigh number one job, when we came on board was to restore the readiness of the force for any fight, any time. we have seen, because of the
increase in support in budgets from congress and the request and the president budget over the last three years, we have seen a significant improvement of readiness of the force. that is foremost about people. two years ago we were 4000 maintainers short in the air force and we have closed that gap. active-duty duty is not sure anymore. we are turning the corner on the pilot shortage. spare parts, logistics, training hours, all of those matter. >> is a correct that you only have the b-52s deployed at the moment? >> i don't talk about things, where things are, in general. >> give us your sense of the f-35. the air force made a public announcement it was there. is it operating to the level of readiness and availability you want? lumpe f-35 -- some people
all aircraft together -- we focus on operational squadrons when we assess readiness, not the early prototype aircraft. f-35 is a game changer of an aircraft. supercomputer wrapped in a stealthy aircraft. when we take it out and do our most difficult for some force exercises, the kill ratio is 20 to one. i would much rather be us with the f-35 then any other country in the world today. >> let's shift to the southwest border of the u.s. that is another call upon your --ces, u.s. military forces acting secretary shanahan was there this weekend and publicly, there have been public indications, the exact languages the u.s. military will stay on the border until it is secure, until dhs can secure it.
esper, what is your sense of what the demand essentially will be on u.s. forces? are we having a microphone issue? ok. what will the demand be on u.s. forces? you have been to the border. tell us about it. >> we will have to see. demand is driven by requirements set forth by department of homeland security, received by secretary of defense, passed on to northern command, they sort out what forces they want, army, navy, air force, marines, title x or title 2. >> active-duty versus? >> either national guard or the reserve in some cases. the chief of staff of the army and i testified, we have a
million man army, 4000 troops at the border does not have a big impact on the readiness of the army to deploy, fight and win. in terms of the types of units we are sending down there, logistics, engineers, military police and others, and the mission they are performing, which is largely the mission they would perform in combat, we are not seeing a degradation in readiness -- this happens every year. whether it is fighting wildfires in california, hurricane relief in puerto rico or texas, at any point in time we have multiple state guards doing emergency work. this is our responsibility to the american people. we manage the risk and units appropriately. >> you say they're doing the same thing they do as if they were in combat. what kind of troops are you talking about? >> engineers, putting up obstacles, lodger stations delivering supplies.
medics, providing medical service. those of the types of functions they are doing down there. >> do you foresee it expanding? are you discussing expansion? >> i have not discussed that. i hate to speculate on most things. we have to see what the department of homeland security's requests are, secretary shanahan would have to sort through what we can and cannot support. >> secretary wilson, your troops are also engaging in airlift. >> we have a small number of people involved, yes. >> not impacting you? >> the army probably has the largest element, by far. around 100 or, few, we have small numbers of people. shift to a couple other things. if we talk about iran, you also have north korea, russia, in terms of being geopolitical
hotspots. for both of you, either one of balancing allou of that? in particular, russia is interesting, because of course, you both have vigorous exercise programs and training programs in eastern europe. where do you see that going? >> the national defense strategy published in january 1 year ago, the national defense strategy recognized reemergence of great power of competition as the defining element of our time and guided the forces to shift to look at great power competition with respect to how we train, organize and equip the force and
what we plan to do. in the case of the air force, that really means focusing on china as well as russia. with respect to russia, i was in warsaw 10 days ago for discussions with the polish government. they deeply want to strengthen their partnership with the u.s. one of the lines of effort guided by the national defense strategy is to deepen alliances and establish new partnerships, because it is the strategic strength of the u.s. neocolonial approach where they are seeking to intimidate and buy support throughout the world. the u.s. has countries that want to be allied to us because we have common values and those values benefit partners, not just the u.s. china seems to have a one-way approach than the u.s. does and as a result, we have allies. that is a strategic strength.
deepening those alliances is important in the case of eastern europe, but also around the pacific. >> she had a great answer. i am not sure i can add to that. >> i will follow up with both of you, as you would expect. you talk about alliances. the u.s. army has land warfare alliances in eastern europe. the reality in this town right now is you have a white house and president that remains deeply skeptical that alliances and coalition partners, i think, to paraphrase him, are not paying their fair share, of that alliance commitment that you make to these partners around the world. what challenges is this posing for you as you discuss this with your alliance partners, that you have a president who is verbally and publicly skeptical, many
times, of this concept? >> this is not new. i served at the u.s. mission to nato in the 1980's. one of the top issues at the time was called burden sharing. are the nato allies carrying their fair share of defense responsibility for europe? nato alliances made a commitment to get 2% of gdp on defense. some countries are making it. some are not. that continued pressure by the united states on allies to say, there is no free lunch. you have to be pulling the wagon, and not in the wagon, has come from the u.s. since the 1980's. >> i would say the same thing. i am a big believer in our alliances. i served in nato on active duty in europe in the 1990's. i think it is a strategic strength. whether it is a formal allied treaty partner or a partner, we
expect everyone to pull their fair share. alliance only works if everyone is working together and contributing appropriate resources to do that. you are only as strong as your weakest link. both views are compatible. >> neither of you have ever had a counterpart bring this issue up during the current administration? concern, public concern, about alliances? not the history of burden sharing but i'm fascinated, if it has never come up? >> i have heard from general officers. they are hearing the same from their partners in many of these countries. thank you for raising it. >> the pressure, elevating this issue, making this an issue, causes countries to look internally and say, ok, what do we need to do as part of our collective self-defense commitment? i agree with mark.
these are not incompatible thoughts. we are committed -- we are all stronger when we work together. we are stronger together than any of us are alone. no question. that means we all have to make a contribution to national defense. like poland, for example, a country committing more than 2% of gdp toward national security, is determined to demonstrate to neighbors, even though it is toatively small, it is going carry its fair share of the load. kudos to them and other countries who have ethical. >> -- who have met that goal. >> at 2:00 we will go to audience questions. we have microphones on either side of the room. when you raise your hand, so start thinking what you want to ask if you have not thought of it already. let me ask a couple quick things.
every, iffor almost not every nation represented here, the issue of global climate change is something many governments are looking at and trying to determine their way ahead and have a think about this issue, whatever they think how they think about it. i know you have both been asked by congress publicly whether your thoughts on whether global climate change is an issue. military bases in the united states are being impacted by severe weather events. particular isin finding it challenging to get the money set up to fix some of these areas, and for the future, if you had to do it over again, you might not build bases in coastal areas or in nebraska, where there might be problems. talk to us about how you approach climate change and the severe weather events impacting you so much. >> sure.
base, a cavalry base near water -- there are reasons for these things. that is true. >> wow. >> we also locate bases for strategic reasons. vitall air force base is to rebuild where it is because we have access to wonderful training areas and test areas right off the coast of florida. the tyndalle, after event and several other events, we took a look at -- we are responsible for weather reporting for the entire dod. that is a big issue for flight operations. weather,emencombat with the army when they go forward. what tools are reusing? ather as about we
another adversary -- is there a better way to report on we we taking advantage of these tools, are we giving commanders the most time we can to know the risks they face? when there'svy, trouble, the navy leaves their bases -- >> we are going out to see. a. >> we fight from our bases. it is important for our bases to be resilient. energy, water, rebuilding isways, resilience of bases important not matter what the adversary. as a young officer you are taught to consider weather in
your operational planning. it is something you factor in. we have to think about it as the climate changes -- what is the impact on bases in the coming years? we work in terms of installations to make sure we can adapt over time and that process will go forward. >> let me ask you the same thing congress has asked you, slightly differently. assess thatve or there is global climate change generated by man-made activity? climate change is happening. we know that. i have not studied the signs to know what degree man is contributing, but it is happening, so we have to confront it and think through the issues as it evolves over time. >> you are not sure if it is caused by man? >> i don't know to what degree. i don't know what science is telling us, what percent that
is. >> to us, it does matter. whatever the cause, we have to deal with it and we are focusing on resilient basing. somehow,ve to know what is causing some of this to know how to prepare for it. >> know, we have to deal with the reality as it is. the climate has been warming since the end of the last ice age. it has accelerated in the last 100 years. irrespective of the cause, our responsibility is to make sure we have trained and ready forces to present to a combat commander. that is the way we look at it. >> let's go to audience questions. somebody show me where the microphones are. >> i have one. here.'s start over if you wouldn't mind identifying yourself and who you are representing? >> [indiscernible]
>> and who your questions are for. >> north korea tested missiles twice last week. secretary wilson, do you believe missiles were ballistic missiles, especially the second one on the 8th, and with the latest series of testing has the threat to the u.s. and its allies, south korea and japan, increased? secretary esper, with north korea continuing provocations, is there a need to return to the previous expanded level of joint exercises? >> i don't have a particular comment on the north korean military capabilities. we consider them to be a potential threat to neighbors and we maintain readiness levels to be able to deal with any threat. >> in the decision, with regard to returning whatever exercise we did in the past, it is not the call of the secretary -- it
is the responsibility of the commander in theater. at the end of the day, but we are trying to do is help effect diplomatic efforts. >> i have another question here. then, i will look for hands up on the side of the room. >> [indiscernible] wilson, all, secretary secretary esper, thank you so much. [indiscernible] the frontline of nato. gathered one of the most important equipping programs in my country, and i know, you will benefit a lot in the future. attack.till under we believe your plans in defense, strategy, exceeds expectation. [indiscernible]
i want to ask you about europe. how you can, according to your change in, respond to the black sea region? how do you coordinate between army, navy and air force? if you face any threat or new challenges? adopted theess budget. that is my question. predict, --, we [indiscernible] -- final stage and we should be ready together for any attack. thank you. >> i think, one of the things the u.s. has done over the last several years since the european
defense initiative, we have done different things with those funds, pre-positioning things. in the case of the air force, we have partnered with forward operating locations to bring airbases up to standard and then to be able to accept quickly american air forces and support them, so that we have flexibility to move our forces rapidly wherever they may need to be. flow forces to forward, we hope has a deterrent effect. earlier,were talking we place value on our strategic partnerships, our alliance partners. we improve those relationships through any number of things, foreign military sales, joint training, bases, etc. i had a chance to see our soldiers with soldiers from your country and it is spot on.
i attended a joint training event in bulgaria. i will soon go to romania. i have been to poland. when you look at nato partners and non-nato partners, we are doing a lot of work to build mutual understanding and partnerships that make the alliance so strong. >> additional questions? sir, right here. >> thank you. ambassador from the bahamas. regarding the situation in venezuela, it is no secret of the crisis in the country and the humanitarian crisis on the border countries. has there been a miscalculation or a misreading of the situation between thetandoff maduro regime and the interim president? >> i will disappoint you with this. ast is not my responsibility
title x provider. that is for the state department. i have full confidence in mike pompeo. >> i will ask a venezuela follow-up. there has been a public discussion by secretary pompeo and john bolton as well as admiral fowler as well as acting secretary shanahan about the potential for a military option in venezuela. as i recall, acting secretary shanahan said the pentagon had planned exhaustively for a potential military option in venezuela. how ready, given all the other drains on your forces from other is theotspots, how ready army and air force to execute any one of these exhaustively planned military options for venezuela? >> we plan all the time.
that is what militaries do. we organize, train, equip. there are plans for all types of contingencies. that would be irresponsible not to do that. when we look at what is happening in venezuela -- tremendous tragedy, humanitarian disaster, the creation of its government. what will continue to happen. it is wise to continue to evaluate and plan. >> all due respect, can you comment on the readiness and availability of u.s. forces to execute any one of these military options that are being exhaustively planned,.? job, to be ready to deploy forces forward in any contingency around the world.
maintain twoe preservice secretaries, whose responsibility is not to fight, but to organize, train and equip forces. that is the responsibility we have to the country. >> additional questions? >> i'm sorry. sorry, i could not see you. my apologies. let's get a microphone over to yo, sir. >> thank you. defense from south africa. my question is mainly based on syria and afghanistan. at one stage it was announced the usa forces are intending to withdraw from syria and afghanistan. this is following the events in those countries -- battles are still going on. from time to time, we lose one or two lives.
position inpresent terms of withdrawal from those countries -- are you still going to withdraw or not? thank you. >> are you still planning to withdraw your troops from syria and afghanistan, as publicly discussed in the past? >> tensions expressed by the white house is that there would be some drawdown over time. i do not track those numbers in detail. that is a decision by the president coordinated through the secretary of defense with the combatant commander. the commander is the one who fights forces abroad. we provide forces. i've heard nothing different than what you said. >> same. >> additional questions? we will do everybody. we will get right back to you,
sir. >> [indiscernible] >> all right. that is fine. >> hello, i am the ambassador. thank you for your service. i have so many questions to rescue, whether it is the role of drones in the future or the -- the space force or question i will ask is based on a question i've had with secretary mattis a couple years ago, when he was talking about the directions he was trying to push euros forces to increase -- push his forces to increase lethality. he mentioned ai, directed energy and hypersonic's. when will we have a mac5
airplane? the corollary, this is based on another question to commander christo, someone asked him what his favorite fish was? he said something nice about f-35. what is your favorite airplane of all time? >> sr 71. wonderful aircraft. amazing technology. wonderful story of innovation. there's a long story about materials developed to go at high speeds, high-altitude. there's a lot of interesting stories on technology. ai, directed energy, hypersonic stash air force just released a new science technology strategy to look at how we organize for technical innovations and what should priorities be?
it is different than past science and technology strategies. air force has updated its strategy every 5-10 years since the late 1940's. onthis case, the focus is time, speed and complexity. we have identified areas where we want to research and we are trying to do this differently. speed includes things like hypersonic's. it is a great story. one of our first breakfast meetings with the three service secretaries, we just had another one this morning, we get together and talk about r&d portfolios. the navy had funded an army prototype of a hypersonic that worked better than ours but we had rockets that were better than theirs and the secretary of the navy said, well, it will take us to long to shrink the diameter. can we put this -- can we do
best-of-breed? together ande come up with a hypersonic weapon to test and drop it off of an aircraft or launch it from the ground or put it on the deck of a ship? we get everyone together, we signed a memorandum of understanding and said, go fast, use the best technology irrespective of origin and share information and results. it is probably one of the best -- we accelerated the development of hypersonic's by five or six years as a result. >> i think, talk about technology. modernizationor effort underway right now. hypersonic's, directed energy, robotics, ai. i think in the coming years we will be at the point to have semi autonomous vehicles on the battlefield. the question for me that gets
back to topics we covered earlier, often comes up in audiences like this, as part of the concern is u.s. military is prepared to make a major leap into the future in coming years and if our allies and partners don't invest -- we risk their being a divide between us in terms of capability. abouty ways we talk investing as partners and allies. it is important remove together -- we move together if we can deter future conflict. when people talk about how expensive it is to have a first-class military, the only thing more expensive is to fight a war. the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is to fight and lose. we are all focused on that, making sure we have investments necessary -- congress has been helpful in this regard in the
past couple years, particularly last year -- to make sure we can deter conflict in the future. i hope our allies and partners are with us and can bring their capabilities with ours as well. that point --e predictability in budgets over the last three years has made a tremendous difference. yearse first time in nine we have a budget to start the year on the first of october. air force and navy are facing a terrible situation where we had a category five hurricane slam into one of our bases and a flood at another and we still have not gotten supplemental funding through to fix that. we do not have insurance. as private citizens, we ensure houses. the military is self-insured by the congress. that disaster happened in october.
thatonsequences of disaster on the panhandle of florida, if you go down there today, it still looks like a war zone. it has been absolutely devastated. we still have not gotten the first insurance more than anything else right now, we need to get the supplemental, because we have been robbing every other account across the air force to pay for that, and we are now seven months, eight months through the fiscal year? all of that is behind us. if we don't get this, it hurts the rest of the air force around the country. ms. starr: i am coming close to the last question here. sorry, we will make you the last question, then i will ask. [laughter] >> thank you. i am the representative of the kurdistan regional government in iraq. we have heard a great deal about
talking through allies, training partners, forever ready, which is all great. so i would like to ask, if you can apply all of that, to how the u.s. will deal with the threat of isis and other similar terrorist organizations in iraq. they are still a threat, but they also have provinces across the world. how do you work through all the things you have talked about with regards to working with your partners on the ground on this issue? thank you. sec. esper: the national defense strategy, which has its focus on high intensity conflict against peer competitors also tells us we need to prepare for the long-term to deal with irregular warfare, specifically countering terrorist organizations and whatnot. those partnerships will continue. wherever they are, whether it is in the centcom, the middle east, southeast asia, all over the world. we are trying to confront this -- confront these groups to make
sure that problem does not grow. i see the partnerships continuing. i see the investments in special operations command continuing. the army is probably the biggest provider to our special operations force. all of that falls under the umbrella of irregular warfare and it will continue to be a priority for us. ms. starr: let me ask you something, secretary esper. it struck me a minute ago when you talked about the need for coalitions and alliances here. the future warfare that the u.s. is moving towards, hypersonic, space force, all of that, is something that you want other countries very much to not be left behind. but the reality, of course, is there are many countries in the world that have circumstances that -- economic circumstances that simply don't allow them to spend per capita on par with the united states. they don't have the resources.
they may not have the military force and expertise at this point to embrace all of that. a lot of what you both talked about very understandably, is very classified future technology that the u.s. would not be ready to share any how. so are we inevitably then moving toward a military divide in the world between the great powers, so to speak, russia, china and the united states -- russia and china, we know are investing in these technologies, perhaps not quite as successfully. maybe they are. are we running into a military divide between the countries that don't? sec. wilson: i don't see that. i see the partnerships that we have deepening. the united states air force trains 1200 noncommissioned officers from latin america every year at lackland air force base in spanish.
we train our partners and allies. you talk about high-tech, we have now opened our space programs. we now have a combined space operations center. we opened our space training programs. space 100 taught in the united states is taught to 20 allies with allied officers engaged and involved, and we are putting our centers on allied spacecraft. we have a center that is going up aboard a norwegian satellite and are working on the same with japan. so even in areas of technology, we are deepening our partnerships, because good ideas are not just coming from the united states. ms. starr: secretary esper, your thoughts? sec. esper: i share secretary wilson's views. we will incorporate export
ability into our future. we mentioned the training part, we train hundreds of pilots every year or no aircraft, on our fight systems. we train soldiers throughout our school system, from west point all the way to the war college we have foreign students. we think it is valuable to have those programs. but the key to collective defense is everybody contributing their fair share. what we don't want to do is have gaps. we want to maintain interoperability, great collaboration between us as we move forward, and that will require investment from all of us going forward. ms. starr: we are about out of time because everybody eventually has to go back to the pentagon, apparently. me especially. [laughter] so -- >> barbara, i want to thank you very much for moderating today. secretary wilson, secretary esper, thank you very much. we are delighted to have all the ambassadors here. it is an honor to have you here. i think senator donnelly is here as well, thank you.
joe, welcome. we'll have our next program on the 21st, if everyone is interested. thank you for being here. we appreciate your interest in the meridian international center. [applause] >> c-span's washington journal live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. this morning arkansas republican congressman discussing the trump administration's trade in tariff policy. then maryland democratic congressman will talk about election security administration. washington post technology reporter will discuss
efforts by congress to regulate major technology firms. watch "washington journal" at 7:00 eastern this morning. join the discussion. bus is stopping at middle and high schools across the country to meet the award winners of our video competition. we were recently in colorado springs with our cable partner, comcast, where we met the first prize high school west winners from william j palmer high school. >> for us it did not really take long in our research to find all the disparities in voting rights , especially with native americans living on reservations. it was a shock to me, considering that we have been coexisting for a very, very long time, and they still struggle with going rights. gerrymandering also seems like such an outdated thing but it still exists, and it is still a problem.
those are things we wanted to focus on. ♪ announcer: to watch all the winning entries, go to studentcam.org. at the state department mexico's foreign affairs secretary and acting secretary spoke at the annual conference on the americas. u.s.-mexicoabout trade, immigration, and border security. this part of the conference is just under one hour.